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Silent History: Spartan Library Turns 40

Artwork by Alex Vera/The Minaret

Artwork by Alex Vera/The Minaret, Photo of present library by Abby Sanford/The Minaret

The MacDonald-Kelce Library, either a sacred vessel of knowledge or just that building you have to walk by to get to the pool, is a focal point of the UT campus with a strong history.

Oct. 19 marks the 40th anniversary of our library. Though The University of Tampa campus is over 75 years old, the library celebrates only 40 years because of the age of the current building.

The library was not always located next to the Hillsborough river; in fact, it was founded in Fletcher Lounge.
The original library certainly had a different look and a lot less space than our current library, according to Paula Fry, library cataloger and technical assistant.

In the summer, it was scorching hot and in the winter it was extremely cold. Termites became a problem because of the heat and cockroaches infested the small space.

Marlyn Pethe, library director, said that in the ’60s, UT staff finally realized the library in Fletcher Lounge wasn’t an appealing place for students to spend their time.

A new building would be more convenient and an opportunity for more space.

In 1969, when the current library was established, a survey was taken to see what students thought could be improved.

Art Bagley, a reference librarian, said the most common complaint was that students wanted more hours.
Bagley said this still happens to be the case, especially since all-nighters are becoming more frequent among college students.

Although the library hours have not been altered, a lot has changed in the past 40 years.

Pethe remembers the way the current computer lab used to look.

Instead of students surfing the Internet, back then you would have seen students and employees taking a drag of their cigarettes in what was once the smoking lounge of the library.

If a student requested a specific book and the library didn’t have it, it could take three to six months before the library could get their hands on it.

Instead of buying microfilm and ordering newspapers and magazines monthly, everything is now ordered electronically.

“Everything is being used electronically. Everyone is jumping on the green bandwagon,” said Bagley.

Bagley and Pethe also remember when the library had the first fax machine ever on campus.

The library was the envy of all the other departments that year, and only faculty was allowed to take turns using the new toy.

Pethe said she found it hard to believe that a building that once housed a typewriter lounge and printing presses now has screens you can plug your laptop into to make group presentations easier for students.

“Technology has been amazing and so cool,” said Pethe, who has watched these changes take place since starting her job in the mid-70s.

Despite all the strides technology has taken in our beloved library, employees still have suggestions for change.

“I think we could use more space, more people to help. I think just more,” said Pethe.

Technology and space are not the only things that have an impact on the library and its employees and students.

Service has become more important to faculty over the years and, according to Bagley and Pethe, fewer complaints are made about the staff.

In recent years, book circulation in the library has gone down, though Bagley and Pethe say this isn’t unique to MacDonald-Kelce.

The library is still being utilized, especially as a place for students to find a quiet place to study.

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